Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Astounding Architecture

Exercise 4

Pillars shoot upwards creating an enormous discrepancy in height compared with the people walking by. Proportionally I feel like a small ant next to a full grown man. The mammoth columns bar the entrance of the circular dome encased by marble. Carefully carved d├ęcor and floral patterned stone embellish the walls. The earthy tones strike me as so homey and warm but the large space makes me feel cold and alienated. This contrast in warm and cold twirls my stomach. I am astounded and feel miniscule as I gaze above to the circular opening that cookie cuts the sun’s rays into a blinding circle. I search in curiosity for the projected sun spot along the rim. Surprisingly, at first glance, I do not find the illuminated ellipse very interesting. I learn the dome’s diameter equals its central height and imagine fitting a giant orange perfectly in the center. These observations barely begin to describe the Pantheon. I know I can sit and spend hours describing every crack, color and angle, but all those details are miniscule compared to the inexplicable feeling of experiencing this massive enclosure around me. Questions quickly flood my mind. How did they move all this marble? How accurate is the circle? The vast amount of labor and detailed drawings full of calculations seems unfathomable. How was such extreme precision acquired before the computer age? How does this dome stand on its own? How many hours did it take to build? How many people did it take? All of these fact-driven questions cannot keep my interest and leave my mind in a flash.

I begin to ponder how glorious of an opening day this supreme structure deserved. I glance over to the entryway as I imagine a colorfully-dotted crowd holding eerie silence as they watch with patience through the double doors. Men clad in colorful uniform line the steps leading up to the entrance. All of the heads move to watch a solitary figure walk through the massive doors. The man is wearing a loose toga, bound at the waist with a gold chord ironically memorable by its simple design. He solemnly gazes left and right. The small wrinkles around his eyes and lip show signs of middle-age. Almost expressionless, all his amazement carefully conceals itself except for the glittering excitement emanating from his eyes. He walks a lap around the interior. When he reaches the doors again, several other men join him. After they finish their inspection and step back out towards the crowd. The emperor Hadrian begins to speak of the glory of Rome symbolized in the rebuilt Pantheon after the fire in 80. Afterwards he ceremonially touches his hand to the wreath crown atop his head. Immediately the crowd erupts into cheers of delight. The flash of a tourist’s camera wrenches me back to present time as I notice a curious group of uniform-wearing schoolgirls parade past.

I have no factual evidence of what happened the day Pantheon was completed, but my ignorance allows room for personal imagination. My journal entry merely touches the tip of my overwhelming feeling of grandeur, disbelief and respect for the Pantheon and I would much rather trust my memories and emotions. I feel in awe standing so close to the rays of the sun pouring in through the center, illuminating the space with exponentially more light than I could hypothesis when gazing at the front from outside. Staring at the ceiling I see the patterned offset squares and begin to spin. The shadow and light become streaks of movement. I spin round and round until dizziness and hallucination combine into one, and I flutter up over the heads of others and fly through the oculus, into the cerulean blue sky.

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